Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are native to the Americas and are characterized by a large yellow flower head with a rough, hairy stem. Sunflowers are adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions and have been cultivator for a variety of purposes including oil extraction from its seeds, sunflower seed butter, phytoremediation, seeds for snacking and for livestock feed.
One common misconception is that the sunflower head follows the sun as it moves across the sky. While the flowers do all point in the same direction, this myth was debunked as early as 1597 by the English botanist John Gerard.
Sunflowers can be direct seeded after all danger of frost has passed or indoors up to 6 weeks before the last spring frost. Some hybrid sunflowers are grown primarily as cut flowers and have been bred to be pollen free, and seedless with thicker stems. Many traditional varieties can be grown for their blooms and their seed production.
Cover Image by Vijay, used under its Creative Commons license.